Jobless claims in U.S. jump to highest level in six weeks

Housing Starts

Housing starts slumped 16.5%, the most since February 2011, to an 853,000 annualized rate after a revised 1.02 million pace in March. The median estimate of 81 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for a 970,000 rate.

Stock-index futures dropped after the reports, erasing earlier gains. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in June fell 0.1% to 1,652.9 at 8:58 a.m. in New York. The S&P 500 closed at a record 1,658.78 yesterday.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits fell by 4,000 to 3.01 million in the week ended May 4, according to the report on applications for jobless benefits. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

Those who’ve used up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments increased by about 29,000 to 1.79 million in the week ended April 27.

The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 2.3% in the week ended May 4, today’s report showed.

State Breakdown

Twenty-eight states and territories reported a decrease in claims, while 25 reported an increase. These data are reported with a one-week lag. The Labor Department spokesman said several states reported large swings in claims last week, both up and down, ascribing it to typical volatility.

Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth -- measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report -- accelerates.

Procter & Gamble Co., the Cincinnati-based maker of Gillette razors and Tide detergent, is among companies paring headcount. As of the end of March, P&G had reduced 6,250 positions, Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller said on an earnings call on April 24. That’s ahead of its target under a previously-announced cost-cutting plan that called for a reduction in non-manufacturing staffing of 10%, or about 5,700, by the end of the fiscal year that ends June 30, he said.

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